The Homewood Trilogy

Scribner. Nov. 2023. 576p. ISBN 9781982148881. pap. $20. F
Out of print for 40 years, Wideman’s brilliant trio of books presents a kaleidoscopic panorama of his Pittsburgh neighborhood, described by one character as more than mere bricks and boards: “Homewood was them singing and loving and getting where they needed to get.” Written simultaneously, Damballah, The Hiding Place, and Sent for You Yesterday are not a trilogy in the conventional sense but a mosaic of stories and novels whose styles range from gritty vernacular and bluesy lyricism to Joycean stream-of-consciousness and objective reportage, reflecting the complexity and diversity of its subjects. Wideman’s relationship to his incarcerated brother, subsequently explored in his 1984 memoir Brothers and Keepers, looms large here in his unflinching depiction of persecuted fugitives past and present, while the author’s own self-imposed exile both enhances and complicates his efforts to bear witness to a culture and a way of life, as tributary to a flowing tradition of griots and musicians stretching back to Africa.
VERDICT Aptly described as an urban Black complement to Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha novels and a prose analogue to playwright August Wilson’s Pittsburgh-set “Century Cycle,” this masterly, transformative work of remembrance is nothing short of a masterpiece.
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